WILKES-BARRE — The contractor hired to excavate and extinguish the Jeansville Mine Fire in the Hazleton area says the fire is out.
But the Department of Environmental Protection says not so fast.
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, and state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Nanticoke, were at the site of the fire Wednesday and they issued a news release saying the fire has “finally been extinguished.”
However, DEP later issued a statement on the status of the mine fire:
“The Department of Environmental Protection cannot confirm that the Jeansville Mine Fire has been extinguished at this time. The DEP continues to utilize a contractor, Hazleton Shaft, to extinguish the fire and is working with them to drill additional monitoring holes to determine if coal material continues to burn beneath the surface.
“The department’s goal is to extinguish the fire on both the active mining and the abandoned sections of the 25-acre mine fire area. To date, approximately 44 million gallons of water and 14 million gallons of foam have been utilized to fight this fire and 5 million cubic yards of material have been excavated and removed from the site.
“Air quality monitoring conducted at the onset of the work has demonstrated no air quality danger to the public and no complaints have been reported to DEP.”
DEP said a public meeting will be held in coming months to inform the public on the status of the mine fire that was discovered in 2012. The DEP did not participate in the news conference held Wednesday at the site.
Louis Pagnotti, assistant to the chairman of the Atlantic Carbon Group, which owns Hazleton Shaft Corp., the contractor charged with putting the fire out, said Thursday that DEP is “proceeding with an abundance of caution” and has asked that more testing be done.
“We will drill more bore holes for testing,” Pagnotti said. “The fire, from our perspective, is out. However, DEP wants more testing.”
Pagnotti said it will be another month or so before a final determination comes from DEP on the fire’s status.
Jeansville is near Hazleton, which is Barletta’s hometown.
“The Hazleton Shaft Corporation delivered welcomed news to the people of Greater Hazleton that they are under budget and ahead of schedule in extinguishing the Jeansville mine fire,” Yudichak said Thursday. “It was understood from the onset of the project that DEP would continue to monitor the site, and I applaud the commitment of the DEP staff who have worked so effectively with the Hazleton Shaft Corporation to address the Jeansville mine fire.”
The fire, which had likely been burning underground approximately 30 to 40 years before it surfaced, was discovered by Hazleton Shaft when conducting mining operations in the area. At the time, the fire was burning roughly 25 acres of abandoned coal shafts.
Barletta said he was determined to do everything possible to ensure the fire was put out once and for all.
Barletta said he was grateful to Yudichak, state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, and to Banks Township officials for all they did to help coordinate the effort.
Hazleton Shaft was awarded a $9.3 million contract, funded in part with federal dollars, to extinguish the fire.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.